I want to explain how the Jesuit president of Holy Cross promised me confidentiality.
I went to a regularly scheduled meeting with my Jesuit spiritual guide in January 2003 at a retreat house near Boston. I had a three hour drive and the Mass Pike could be difficult in the winter, so I always left a bit of time for traffic issues. That day I was 15 minutes early so I stayed in my warm car listening to music for a bit, then turned off the engine and waited until the meeting time. I had done this many times before.
But when I left my car that day, someone I never met before asked me what I was doing there. I said “Seeing a friend”. He asked again, and I said that again. He asked a THIRD time, and I said loudly “Seeing a friend” and I walked away.
I went in to see my guide and for some reason mentioned this story, probably because it never happened before. And my guide told me that man was a Jesuit who just arrived to live there, James Talbot. He was arrested for sexually abusing many young men in Boston, and staying at the retreat house while he waited for criminal proceedings to take place.
Like he often did because he knew I had a drive home, my Jesuit spiritual guide invited me to lunch in the dining room and we sat at a table by ourselves.
While we were eating lunch, I saw that he was scowling and looking away and not eating. So I asked what was wrong. He asked, “Can’t you hear them?” I said no. He didn’t believe me and he asked again. So I did what I never did in the dining room: I listened to Jesuits around me. And there they were, laughing and loudly telling stories about victims of abusive priests, with the Jesuit perp awaiting criminal proceedings among them. Laughing about it all. (The Jesuit perp was later convicted and spent five years in prison.)
My Jesuit guide was very offended and bothered and agitated. “Don’t they know who hears them?” he wondered.
That day on a long ride home my whole world changed. “Where was the perp who raped me?” “Who did he hurt after me?” “Where is he?” I had tried many times to report it when it happened, but no one paid attention. Where is he now?
So when I got home, I called my Jesuit guide and asked where the perp is. He knew. I asked where to report it. He said where.
And I sent an email to the president of Holy Cross explaining all of this. And he responded swiftly and asked me if I was willing to meet with him.
When I met with Fr. McFarland, he apologized over and over and over and over. He kept asking me how the college can help. I said “I don’t know” repeatedly because I had not thought about it.
He suggested that he appoint a faculty committee to help me figure out how the college can help. I immediately froze. And I explained there is no way I can talk about this to people I don’t know. I explained my privacy matters a lot to me and I can’t talk about this.
So Fr. McFarland swiftly suggested that I talk to people who know me, look into it myself, talk to medical people, and get back to him about how the college can help.
And he addressed the privacy. He told me that all of my communications would be private and fully confidential — no one would ever see them. Later, the college lawyer confirmed this and told me no one would ever see my communications to the president — including him.
Over and over and over again, for ten years, Holy Cross breached this commitment whenever they wanted to. The first person I know about who breached this commitment was Fr. McFarland himself, who sent private communications from me to a staff person at the New England province who told me this happened and showed me the papers McFarland gave them.
Fr. Boroughs does this too.
It’s a weird thing with Jesuits. They promise confidentiality very solemnly and intentionally, and then they breach it when they want to, whenever they want to, just because they want to.